I was hosting SportsCentre with Darren Dutchyshen the day the planes hit the towers. We debated all day whether or not we should do a highlight show on a day when sports could not have mattered less in our world. We ended up doing a very somber half-hour, mostly reaction to the tragedy from prominent athletes, and reports on how the various sports leagues would be canceling games. I struggled to figure out if and how sports mattered in all this madness. I guess out of that, came this column I wrote for TSN.ca on September 11, 2001.
We, in sports, seem determined to attach a number to everything, and the nightmare of September 11 is no different.
The "Sports World", this imaginary bubble we supposedly live in, lost L.A Kings scouts Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis.
A neat, tidy death toll, perfect for the tickers at the bottom of the screen.
We also lost soccer moms, and Little League dads, and big sisters who became corporate bigwigs, but could still whip you at 21 when they came home for Thanksgiving.
We lost star shortstops from the corporate softball league, and secretaries who didn't play, but always brought the oranges, and cheered like you were Derek Jeter.
We lost 11 year-old boys who could have been the next Jordan or Gretzky, and four-year old girls who could have been the next Mia Hamm or Venus Williams, not to mention whom they could have become in the real world.
We lost fans.
We lost Mets fans and Yankees fans, and fans who couldn't stand either, which was a damn brave stance in New York.
We lost Jets fans who'd always go to the game with the same three buddies, each shirtless with a big green painted letter stretching from navel to neck. And no matter how cold, they'd remain skin to the wind, screaming: "J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!" Even when it was 21-3 Colts.
We lost bosses you couldn't stand, until they invited you to the box at the Rangers game and you both wore your Messier shirts, and forever bonded.
We lost girlfriends who left you alone on Sunday afternoons in the fall, or better yet, sat right next to you and cursed like a convict when Kerry Collins threw a pick.
We lost guys from the mailroom who'd spend a couple of days wages to sit in the nosebleeds with their girl at a Knicks game, and stockbrokers in Boss suits who'd spend a couple grand to impress a model with courtsides. But they'd cheer just as wildly. New York has great fans.
We also lost Red Sox fans, Bruins fans, Patriots fans, Capitals fans, Redskins fans, Wizards fans, and probably at least a fan or two for every team out there. Even the Bengals.
We lost fathers who'd take you to Mini-Putt and blow a six-inch gimme on 18 every time to lose by one, so he'd have to take you for ice cream yet again.
We lost mothers who somehow found time to run households with a bunch of kids, corporate divisions with hundreds of employees, and marathons in under four hours.
We lost Grampas who took you out for your first round on a real course, and pretended they didn't see when you teed it up on the fairway.
We lost coaches who'd work 60-hour weeks, and then spend their Saturdays trying to teach six year-olds to stay in position, and not all chase the same ball.
We lost entire lines from the Firefighters Shinny League.
And you know what the saddest part of all is?
Sport was just a tiny part of who these people were.
We lost all of them.